Bob Lambert says IT should take the initiative in solving problems  of business/IT misalignment, and thinks the requirements process can be an effective vehicle for reaching out. I agree.

I could come up with  a number of reasons why IT has an interest in being the one to reach out, but one reason in particular occurred to me as I was reading through Lambert’s post.

Certainly, both sides have a part to play, but IT should take the initiative not only because they possess the “knowledge that business people need in order to maximize the value of IT and efficiency of business processes”, but because, in essence, the business is the customer and corporate IT is just another vendor.

Now more than ever, business folks have a wealth of outsourcing and off-the-shelf purchase options that place homegrown IT in the position of having to compete for business. If IT doesn’t present a compelling value proposition and make the effort to align with the business, then someone else – who is willing to work harder at it – will.

Regarding use the requirements process as a vehicle for reaching out, Lambert has this to say:

In many organizations IT manages the forum in which these conversations can occur: the requirements process.  In my experience a good requirements process is long enough for the business and IT teams to get to know each other, offers generous opportunity for both structured and unstructured conversations about business needs, and brings together knowledgeable business and IT participants.  IT is typically able to bring the insights of seasoned application developers to the fore in a well planned requirements effort.

Yes, everyone has responsibility to “cultivate personal relationships based on mutual need and respect,” but IT can and should bring substance to the relationship in requirements definition.

I could say, “amen” and leave it at that, but as an analyst I will add that I think that an IT organization that brings a true “help me help you” attitude to its interactions with the business during requirements gathering can do a lot to build ( or smooth) relationships and align organizations. To do it right, more give-and-take may be required at a planning or steering committee level, but don’t discount the value of initiative taken at the grassroots!

Also, to give credit where due, I should note that Lambert’s post is actually a response to Ara Trembly’s original article, Business/IT Misalignment: Whose Responsibility? (isn’t the blogosphere great?). I’d encourage you to give Trembly’s article a look, too for full context.

So, what are your thoughts on how best to align business and IT?

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